Biden will award Presidential Medal of Freedom to these 19 people

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Friday awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 19 people, including civil rights icons like the late Medgar Evers, political leaders like former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and actress Michelle Yeoh.

Biden said at the White House that the award is “the nation’s highest civilian honor” and that this year’s recipients are “incredible people whose relentless curiosity, inventiveness, ingenuity and hope have kept faith in a better future.”

Clarence B. Jones, one of the recipients, said in an interview that he thought a prankster was on the line when he answered the phone and heard the person on the other end say she called from the White House.

“I said, ‘Is this a joke or is this serious?'” Jones recalled. The caller swore he was serious and was calling to announce that Biden wanted to recognize Jones with the medal.

Jones, 93, was honored for his activism during the civil rights movement. He is a lawyer who provided legal advice to Martin Luther King Jr. and helped draft the opening paragraphs of the Speech “I have a dream” that King delivered at the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 March on Washington.

The White House said the recipients were “exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other important societal, public, or private endeavors.”

The ten men and nine women come from the worlds of politics, sports, entertainment, civil rights and the defense of LGBTQ+ rights, science and religion. Three medals were awarded posthumously.

Seven politicians were among the recipients: former New York mayor and philanthropist Michael BloombergRep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., former Sen. Elizabeth Dole, climate activist and former vice president Al Goreformer Biden climate envoy John Kerryformer Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who died in 2013, and Pelosithe Democratic congresswoman from California.

Biden in his remarks acknowledged that Clyburn approval In the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, he helped lead him to a resounding victory in South Carolina, propelling him to his party’s nomination and ultimately the White House. Bloomberg launched a short-lived campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

In addition to representing North Carolina in the Senate, Dole, who is a Republican, also served as secretary of transportation and secretary of labor and president of the American Red Cross. She currently runs a foundation supporting military caregivers.

Pelosi is the first and only woman ever elected to the office of Speaker, placing her second in line to presidential succession.

Evers received posthumous recognition for his work more than six decades ago in the fight against segregation in Mississippi in the 1960s as the first NAACP field agent in the state. He was 37 when he was fatally shot in the driveway of his home in June 1963.

Yeah made history last year by becoming the first Asian woman to win the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in ” Everything, everywhere, at once.”

Jim Thorpewho died in 1953, was the first Native American to win an Olympic gold medal for the United States.

Judy Shepard co-founded the Matthew Shepard Foundation, named for his son, a 21-year-old gay University of Wyoming student who died in 1998 after being beaten and tied to a fence.

Jones said he felt “very touched” after digesting what the caller said.

“I’m 93 years old and I’ve been suffering from some health issues, but I woke up this morning by the grace of God,” he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Thursday. “I look forward to whatever the White House would like me to do.”

Other recipients of the medal were:

— Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit Catholic priest who founded and runs Homeboy Industries, a gang intervention and rehabilitation program.

— Phil Donahue, journalist and former daytime television talk show host.

Katie Ledeckythe most decorated swimmer in history.

Opal Lee, an activist best known for pushing for Juneteenth to be a federal holiday. Biden did it in 2021.

— Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman in space and the second female director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

— Jane Rigby, astronomer and chief scientist of the world’s most powerful telescope. She grew up in Delaware, Biden’s home state.

—Teresa Romero, president of United Farm Workers and the first Hispanic woman to lead a national union in the United States. The union supported Biden’s re-election bid and supported him in 2020.

In 2022, Biden presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 17 people, including a gymnast. Simone Bilesthe late senator. John McCain, R-Ariz. and gun control advocate Gabby Giffords.

Biden also knows what it feels like to receive the medal. As president, Barack Obama introduced Bidenhis vice president, with the medal a week before the end of their administration in 2017.

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